Help with Japan itinerary

Apr 3rd, 2012, 09:26 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 4
Help with Japan itinerary

We are a mid-30s couple, traveling to Japan for the first time in May. We are looking for as well-rounded an experience as possible, given our brief trip. We have 13 days, 12 nights.

I'd love some feedback on the rough itinerary with a couple of caveats:
1) We prefer to stay no more than 3 places, and use these as home bases for exploring
2) We enjoy hiking/outdoor activities very much, however that is not our primary goal for this trip.
3) We haven't looked extensively into the train system yet, but are likely going to purchase the 14-day JR pass.
4) We don't want to be too tight on times/schedules as we don't speak Japanese and know we'll need to build in time for getting lost -- indeed, are looking forward to it!

All feedback is welcome, but particularly I'm curious whether we're missing sights we should see and whether the end portion of Takayama and environs is worth it on a limited trip. Other options to fill in the time would be Hiroshima/Miyajima or Fuji/Hakone area.

Arr. Tokyo Tuesday, 5/15/12 4:55 am:
5/15: Tokyo –
5/16: Tokyo –
5/17: Tokyo → Kamakura/Yokohama day trip
5/18: Tokyo – ?Kanda Matsuri festival
5/19: Tokyo → Nikko/Lake Chuzenji day trip
5/20: Tokyo → Kyoto
5/21: Kyoto – Temple market (Toji temple)
5/22: Kyoto → Nara
5/23: Kyoto
5/24: Kyoto
5/25: Kyoto → Kanazawa OR Takayama – Hida no Sato
5/26: Takayama/Nagano & Yudanaka Onsen vs. Shirakawa-go
5/27: Takayama → Tokyo
psychan is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2012, 12:00 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
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I would consider spending more time in Kamakura- perhaps 2-3 nights as it is beautiful with numerous temples to see tucked away in the hills. Likewise consider overnight in Nikko. You have allowed plenty of time in Tokyo and Kyoto.
Have fun.
okoshi2002 is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2012, 05:48 PM
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You don't need a JR Pass for what you have.

You are interested in Hida no Sato and Shirakawago. If you go to one of those you don't need to go to the other. I've been to both, but on different trips. Shirakawago would be the better choice, IMO.

What you have listed for May 26 is confusing. Takayama to Nagano (city) is a 5-hour trip one way. It is another hour and a half from Nagano to Yudanaka.

For May 26, if you mean you are in Takayama and want to do a day trip to Shirakawago then you can do that (and could skip Hida no Sato).

Going from Kyoto to Kanazawa, spend a couple nights there, and then go to Tokyo would also be a good idea.

I assume/hope that you are not intending to fly home on the 27th.
mrwunrfl is online now  
Apr 3rd, 2012, 06:19 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
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> 5/17: Tokyo → Kamakura/Yokohama day trip

I spent one very long day trip visiting Kamakura fromTokyo, and did not try to visit Yokohama. Whether visiting both will work for you depends on what you want to visit.

> 5/19: Tokyo → Nikko/Lake Chuzenji day trip

I think trying to see Nikko and Lake Chuzenji in the same day trip from Tokyo would make for a very, very long day.

> 5/25: Kyoto → Kanazawa OR Takayama – Hida no Sato

Kanazawa really deserves more time than this itinerary would allow - say 2 or even 3 days.

You will see some wonderful things. Enjoy!
kja is offline  
Apr 4th, 2012, 05:35 AM
Join Date: Feb 2012
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A friend took me to Kamakura for a day trip, although fascinating I thought it was very similar to Kyoto, as we just came from Kyoto the day before.

However she took us to those samurai caves which was different and a fantastic local noodle place which only takes like 12 people at one time. The noodles was by far the best we taste and it was only about 1200 yen? I can't remember the name of that place but it was in a traditional Japanese house where you have to take off your shoes and sit on the tatami.
Carmen_Man is offline  
Apr 4th, 2012, 08:07 AM
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Posts: 4
Thank you all for your replies; this is exactly the type of information I was looking for!

mrwunrfl: I didn't realize the travel times between Takayama and Nagano/Yudanaka areas -- looks like that will be impossible on this trip. Which would you suggest: Kyoto to Kanazawa for a couple nights, or Kyoto to Takayama with a day trip to Shirakawa-go?

Finally, for everyone, I'm not certain May in general is the best time to visit the Alps, as it's after skiing/snow but before any hiking.... Would anyone suggest instead doing Hiroshima/Miyajima OR Fuji/Hakone area at the end of the trip instead?

Thanks again!
psychan is offline  
Apr 4th, 2012, 09:15 AM
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From where I am sitting it looks like you would benefit from a 14-day JR pass bought at ¥45,100. If you start the pass when you arrive at NRT and take the NEX into Tokyo you would be able to use the pass for all of your train travel during the length of your stay.

An overnight in Nikko would enhance your stay there as mentioned above it would be a long day trip. You can get to Kyoto easily from Nikko.

The final two nights in Hakone would be a nice end to this trip. Lots to do there with hiking if you want and closer to Tokyo and NRT for your return flight home. There are a plethora of ryokan in the Hakone region and hotels abound in the area. I do love the Hyatt Regency Gora high up in the the tiny mountain village of Gora. I have done a few trip reports of our travels throughout Japan. If you have the time click on my screen name and you might find some answers to your questions.

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Apr 4th, 2012, 11:01 AM
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Posts: 783
I agree that Hakone/Gora would be a nice grand finale to your trip , and it's nice that it is not that far from Tokyo yet a world away in scenery and ambience. Check into a ryokan for a night or two of splurging. You will not regret it !
okoshi2002 is offline  
Apr 4th, 2012, 07:44 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,598
I'll run down your options for the last 3-ish days, in no particular order.

Kanazawa - it is a little over 2 hours from Kyoto by JR limited express train. Close enough that you could spend most of the day in Kyoto on the 24th and travel to Kanazawa that evening. You would then have two full days in Kanazawa followed by the day that you take the 4.5 hour trip back to Tokyo.

Kanazawa for two days would a city trip, to explore that city. There are mountains nearby, if you wanted to rent a car to get there. I believe that there is a bus up to Shirakawago, if you really wanted to go there. I don't know what the travel time is. Or rent a car (I think KimJapan has made daytrips by car to S-go and/or Gokayama. But doing either of those side-trips, the mountains or S-go, would take your time away from Kanazawa. I'm not recommending the side-trips either way, but they are possible.

Hiroshima/Miyajima - it is less than 2 hours by shinkansen from Kyoto and then 4 hours or so from Hiroshima to Tokyo. Hiroshima to Miyajima with a train and a short walk and the ferry - I'll guess an hour. Like Kanazawa, you could easily get to Hiroshima on the evening/night of the 24th. Then have one full day on Miyajima and one full day for Hiroshima (in that order, I think, because of the longish trip back to Tokyo).

Yudanaka - Would be 5+ hours by at least three trains. Yudanaka to Tokyo is about 3 hours and you go via Nagano city, so you could visit the famous temple there. So you could leave Kyoto in the mid-morning and do that fairly long trip and get to Yudanaka at check-in time at an onsen ryokan. Enjoy the ryokan and then have a full day to do whatever in Yudanaka. I have not been there.

Fuji/Hakone - This would basically be on the way between Kyoto and Tokyo. It would be 2 to 2.5 hours from Kyoto to Odawara and then some time from there to wherever are going in the area. From Odawara it would only be an hour to Tokyo on JR, or probably about the same amount of time on an Odakyu train to Shinjuku. I think that you can find here, in Hakone, what you are looking for at Yudanaka Onsen, except for the snow monkeys. But you get Fuji-san and Ashi-ko.

Takayama - Kyoto to Takayama is a bit over 3 hours. It is a bit over 4 hours from Takayama to Tokyo. Takayama is flat, in a valley, so easy to walk or rent a bike. May would be a nice time to go to Takayama. Am pretty sure it is going to be green up in the mountains. It will be green in the valley (I know this from being in Takayama in mid-April for the big festival - buds on the trees and getting green all around. I don't know why you would say it was not a good time for hiking in the mountains, but if that is what hikers say, ok.

Hoping you like to read maps, I will post the following link. It has info about Takayama & S-go, but the main reason I am posting it is for the traffic network map on page 3. North is to the left on this map. I saw people in Kamikochi who were there to do some serious hiking. That is 2 hours from Takayama (and notice that it is less than an hour and a half from Kamikochi to Matsumoto - and not far from there to Tokyo).

Maybe you can find a hiking spot between Takayama and S-go, I don't know - haven't traveled that route. Shirakawago is a great place to visit. Easy walking around the village. Up a hill to a viewpoint.

So you could leave Kyoto on the 25th and get to Takayama that morning. See the sights of Takayama that afternoon, skiping Hida no Sato. Next day get a car, or take a bus to S-go hopefully finding a hike there or along the way.

Where will you be staying in Tokyo?
mrwunrfl is online now  
Apr 5th, 2012, 07:16 PM
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Posts: 4
Wow mrwunrfl -- how incredibly helpful! We'll have to do a little more research to fully decide on the end of our trip, but clearly we have some good options.

In Tokyo thinking of the Hotel Niwa.... Seemed to get decent reviews on TripAdvisor and be a decent place. Any suggestions for alternatives? Or for Kyoto?

Thank you again for all the help!

psychan is offline  
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